That is not a just government where arbitrary restrictions, exemptions, and monopolies deny to part of its citizens that free use of their faculties, and free choice of their occupations. - James Madison
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been publishing quite a few miscellanea and update columns; since last May, I’ve had about 4-6 columns of that sort every month. Besides getting more reader submissions than I used to, I’ve also become better at finding articles myself. So rather than concentrating them together, I’ve decided to spread them out throughout the month. This will therefore be my last monthly miscellanea column; starting tomorrow I’ll present “That Was the Week That Was” every Saturday, except when it’s bumped to Friday or Sunday by some special circumstance.
Out of the Bedroom
Civil libertarians often say we want government out of our bedrooms, but here’s a politician who wants people out of their bedroom clothes:
…Michael Williams (of Shreveport, Louisiana) doesn’t care to see people in their PJs, at least not at a shopping center, restaurant or anywhere else in public…after seeing a group of young men at a local Walmart wearing pajama pants that revealed one young man’s private parts, he decided to push for an ordinance that would prohibit wearing pajama pants in public. “Pajamas are designed to be worn in the bedroom at night,” Williams said. ”If you can’t (wear pajamas) at the Boardwalk or courthouse, why are you going to do it in a restaurant or in public? Today it’s pajamas,” Williams said. ”Tomorrow it’s underwear. Where does it stop?”
…One problem with a possible ordinance is what constitutes pajamas. Williams said it could be defined as a garment sold in the sleepwear section of department stores, and violators should not go to jail but perform community service…The city of Shreveport [already] has a no-sagging law. In 2011, Shreveport police reported 31 incidents involving “wearing of pants below the waist in public.” Most of those were unattached to other more serious crimes, and the offenders were issued misdemeanor summons…
Unsurprisingly, Williams can’t see the irony in his own words: if we let politicians control the clothes we wear, “Today it’s pajamas…Tomorrow it’s underwear. Where does it stop?” I personally think pajamas in public are extremely déclassé, but so are sweat pants and nobody’s trying to make laws against them. Perhaps Williams would be happier in France, where lots of politicians think they have the right to tell people what not to wear.
The Hooker Vote
One day, politicians may actually concern themselves with winning the support of sex workers, but for the present the easiest way to get the hooker vote without losing that of the moralists is to point at that the federal government has no constitutional authority to regulate private behavior:
…Ron Paul can count on support from some members of the world’s oldest profession as he campaigns for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Prostitutes at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch…have launched a “Pimping for Paul” campaign for the Texas libertarian, who backs their right to earn a living as working girls…The Bunny Ranch ladies are asking johns to donate money to Paul’s campaign as they leave the brothel, which also backed Paul’s presidential bid four years ago. Though Paul hasn’t commented on the brothel’s latest drive, his spokesman told the Associated Press in 2007 that “while Paul does not personally condone prostitution, the candidate does not think it’s the role of the federal government to regulate such activity.” During a 2012 GOP candidates debate in May, Paul said that states should be free to legalize prostitution, gay marriage and marijuana if they choose to do so…U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada’s senior senator, told the state’s legislature last February “the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution,” which Reid said discourages businesses from moving to the state…
While I don’t vote and I’m not going to endorse any political candidate, the civil and sexual rights of American citizens will probably be less endangered under a Paul presidency than under a regime headed by of the other current candidates, especially Obama, Romney, Santorum or Gingrich.
The Mother Learns From Her Children
It’s beginning to seem as though the United Kingdom might be starting to learn something about sex worker rights from two of her former colonies. Like New Zealand, she may be moving in the direction of decriminalization. And as in Canada, the reason for the shift is the realization that the laws endanger the safety of sex workers. This article appeared in The Guardian on January 16th, and came to my attention via Harlot’s Parlour:
A series of gang attacks on brothels in east London has triggered calls for changes to the prostitution laws after victims who reported …robberies said they ended up being threatened with prosecution. A police investigation has been launched as senior Labour and Conservative members of the London assembly and the English Collective of Prostitutes allege that violent crime is being given a lower priority than less serious sex offences. The attacks highlight the growing debate over calls for New Zealand’s pioneering decriminalisation of sex work to be considered – an approach recently supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
…a spate of robberies…coincides with an increase in police raids…The first…was in Barking, east London, on 6 December. A video showing five men…breaking into another house in the area being used by sex workers is also being studied by officers. The women who made the first complaint allege they recognise some of the gang members from the YouTube clip. In a third attack, at a different address, a woman who worked as a maid at a brothel is alleged to have been raped by the gang. None of the victims there reported the offence for fear of being charged…with living off the proceeds of prostitution…The ECP said changes to the law, in response to fears over the forcible trafficking of foreign sex workers into Britain, have made it more difficult for women to work together…for safety.
A letter of complaint sent…[to the police by ECP activist] Niki Adams…[said] “We are receiving reports of incidents where women have been attacked and their attackers have told them brazenly that they know women won’t dare go to the police.” Adams believes there may have been as many as 20 attacks in the area over the past two years…Last November Simon Byrne, Acpo’s lead officer on prostitution and sexual exploitation, suggested there was a need for a fresh look at the legal balance…”There is a great amount of academic research available, much of which supports the view that an alternative approach is needed,” he wrote on his official Acpo blog. ”An example would be the decriminalisation and regulation of brothels in Australia and New Zealand, not an answer to all of the related issues but certainly a solution to some. More of those involved in sex work in Australia and New Zealand can now access health services with ease, whilst maintaining more personal security in an emotive area for policing.”
Another proponent of reform is Andrew Boff, a Conservative member of the London assembly. ”The law is framed so as to put women [sex workers] into the most vulnerable position,” he said. ”The changes brought in by the last government seemed to [be derived from] the view that every single worker in the sex trade was trafficked. People are not willing to come forward over these attacks. When they report them, the women themselves have had action taken against them…” Len Duvall, the leader of the Labour group at the London assembly, said: ”We need to examine in greater detail information and case studies from those countries that have sought to legalise prostitution, including the model put forward by New Zealand, especially if it provides a degree of protection for sex workers and reduces crimes associated with prostitution…There is also evidence that crimes against sex workers are being ignored”…Tim Barnett, the British-born former New Zealand MP who pushed through his adopted country’s decriminalisation legislation in 2003, was in London before Christmas where he briefed Boff and Duvall…
There’s definitely cause for hope here. American politicians can ignore New Zealand as an antipodean anomaly, but if Canada and the UK also decriminalize it’s going to be a lot harder for American prohibitionists to convince everyone that theirs is the “normal” view.
One Year Ago Today
“Maggie in the Media” is a description of all the interviews I gave last January, mostly on the subject of nonexistent Super Bowl prostitution booms.